Diego highway caves in

More than 12 hours of rainfall swamped Diego Martin yesterday as the Diego Martin River raged through the area and left a trail of destruction.

The Diego Martin Highway Extension (from Sierra Leone to the Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard) was closed to traffic after a section of the northbound lane collapsed on Thursday and the overnight rains left some Diego Martin residents reeling from losses.

An official at the site said the gaping hole in the road measured at about 20 by 6 feet.

A smiling Works and Transport Minister Colm Imbert was observing remedial work on the damaged section of the highway yesterday. The Highway Extension project was originally budgeted at $45 million in 2002 and scheduled to last one year. The sod was turned in August of that year and the project was officially opened in March 2006. The contractor was Junior Sammy.

Social Development Minister and Member of Parliament for Diego Martin Central Dr Amery Browne went to see the damage as part of a tour of affected areas.

He consulted briefly with Imbert who left the site. Browne told the media the damage was caused by the erosion of the wall alongside the Diego Martin River.

“There are a number of weaknesses throughout the river,” Browne said.

Browne said the damaged portion of the highway was receiving urgent attention and the Works Ministry had “responded very rapidly.” He said Diego Martin was “very hard hit many times this rainy season.” Browne said the flooding problems began since August 1 and some homes were flooded six times for the year.

A team from Coosal’s Construction Company Ltd was at the site excavating the damaged part to do repairs. Browne said, “The team indicated in the very near future, I believe before the weekend is out they will be able to reopen this section of highway.”

However, this is dependent on the weather. Asked if the quality of work was raised, Browne said, “There were no such comments. The fact is these things can happen.

This river and the infrastructure is quite aged in some parts.” He said a commitment was given that the river would receive attention in the dry season next year. The ministry is collaborating with other state agencies to assist flood victims.

Vice-chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation Lyndon George said the destruction was more extensive than before. He said areas along the Diego Martin Main Road were affected especially Mason Road to Texeira Road.

“Several areas in Maraval were severely hit, along Grapefruit Crescent, Haleand Park and other areas,” George said. He said additional equipment had to be rented to respond.

Asked to comment on the erosion of the river bank at the Diego Martin Highway where the Water and Sewerage Authority installed new pipes last month, George said he could not comment because he had not seen the damage.

“I know we spoke with WASA on it and they were trying to get the Ministry of Works to assist as quickly as possible but the rains just kept falling for a period of time and haven’t stopped.”

On November 18, a 21-inch main on the transmission system was broken by flood waters.

The repair work caused a water interruption in several areas in Diego Martin and Petit Valley Main Road. Several residents were cleaning mud from their homes.

Delores Walker of Evergreen Drive, Patna, said her recently purchased $10,000 refrigerator with meat was destroyed. “It looks like I have no Christmas. I don’t know what to do,” she said.Resident, Chrysantus “Pedro” Clement, said he has lived in the area since 1961 and experienced flooding “but not to this extent.”

He said debris which got trapped on a 24-inch water line caused a backflow which flooded homes.

Natasha Sammy and her family lost their home at Cocorite.

She said, “All the water keep running down from the big drain in the back and start to flow over. That caused the poles holding up the house to fall.”

On Thursday night, Sammy and her husband Marcus Assevaro were in their bedroom when they heard “boards cracking.” Yesterday morning a louder crack was heard and her husband grabbed their children and rushed everyone out the house.

“I just feel water soak me and the house went straight down. Everything mashed up and soaked,” Sammy said, adding the family did not know where they would spend the night.

Thursday’s heavy showers is posed a threat to new pipe lines installed by Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) last month.

Soil along the river bank has been steadily falling into the Diego Martin River and the powerful flood yesterday uprooted a tree.

Newsday learnt that one pipe took treated water to households while the other took untreated water from a well to the treatment plant. Newsday was told that if the treated water pipe broke, “that will be real problems.”

La Puerta resident Sean Marshall said, “They suppose to cast this and put a retaining wall. They know this going to happen. All they really do is fix the pipe and forget the river. At the end residents are going to pay. No water.”

An elderly woman and a young girl died on November 18 when flooding swept through north and east Trinidad, stranding thousands for hours.


"Diego highway caves in"

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